Dajuan Graf is a 26 year old 185cm guard from Charlotte, North Carolina that just completed his second professional season and first with the Kirchheim Knights averaging 12,8ppg,4,5rpg and 5,3apg Last season he played with KK Alkar Sinj (Croatia-Premijer Liga) playing 24 games: Score-5 (15.5ppg), 4.5rpg, 4.7apg, Steals-2 (2.0spg), FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 25.6%, FT: 72.5%. He began his basketball career at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology. He then played at Florida Gulf Coast (NCAA) from 2012-2014 playing a total of 71 NCAA games and then finished at North Carolina Central (NCAA) playing there from 2015-2017 playing a total of 63 NCAA games and as a senior played 33 games averaging 14.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 5.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 39.5%, FT: 77.9%. He spoke to germanhoops.com after his season in Germany.
Dajuan thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Basketball is great, I’m entering my prime right now, so I feel like I’m getting better every day. Basketball Is my life, so basketball usually dictates how my days go and how much time I have to do anything else.
You played your second professional season and first in Germany with the Kirchheim Knights. The playoff chase was a tough one that the club couldn’t reach. How tough was it not making the playoffs?
Yeah, we set a goal for our team to make the playoffs. Although we didn’t make the playoffs, I learned a lot from my teammates and my coaches. So, I wouldn’t say the season was a failure I took it as a learning experience.
What is your season summary of the Kirchheim Knights. You had a team with immense talent. Do you feel like the team underachieved a bit?
Throughout the season we faced adversity which set us back. We had to deal with a lot of injuries and we had to recruit new players, so our chemistry was off. We defiantly didn’t do what we set out to do but it I wouldn’t say we underachieved.
At the start of the season the Kirchheim Knights had a good stretch having a 5 game winning streak, but then lost 7 of 9 games. What were the main factors for the team making this sudden turn?
I think we were on a high horse after winning 5 games in a row. Our confidence was high and once we started losing we couldn’t find our groove again. It was tough for us and had injuries during that time, so it set us back a little.
The club played ok at the end and were in pretty good position of making the playoffs, but then lost two crucial games to Phoenix Hagen and Artland.
Yeah with all the mistakes we made throughout the season, the Hagen and Trier lost hurt our playoff chances the most.
The Kirchheim Knights had the third best defense in the Pro A, but it seemed to let the team down in those two loses. Did your strength defense cost you the playoffs at the end?
I think we let down on our defense towards the middle of the season. Our mindsets changed, and we stopped focusing on our principals. Without effort on defense its hard to beat good teams and we found that out the hard way.
Let’s talk a bit about your teammates. How important was a guy like American Keith Rendleman who played his fourth season with Kirchheim? Was he one of those guys that showed you the ropes to everything you needed to know?
He was an important veteran because he’s been in Germany before and he could help us out finically in helping us manage our money.
How much of a pleasure was it playing with Rhondell Goodwin? How much easier did this prolific scorer make your game as a point guard?
Rohndell and I became close while in Germany, we were roommates and we became like brothers. We fed off each other during the games, once he was scoring the defenses had to focus on him, which freed me up to create plays for my teammates.
Did you sense that Goodwin has a chip on his shoulder after having to make his way up the basketball ladder from the NCAA 2?
He knows how to play the game of basketball and he’s a smart player. He knew coming into the season that it’s a process because he did come from a D2 school, but it didn’t make a difference for him because he knows the game of basketball.
You played together with many young German players. If you had to pick one player that made the biggest jump this season in their development who would you pick?
Kevin Wohlrath, I’m extremely proud of him, he made so much progress throughout the year. Also he plays extremely hard every practice, he’s going to be a great player in the future.
Let’s talk about your game. You‘re a a 185cm point guard that can fill the stat sheet at ease. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
Kemba Walker because he’s a smaller guard and no one in the NBA can guard him. His creation off the dribble is crazy but I would compare myself to kyrie Irving because of his knowledge of the game and his craftiness.
You came from the first Croatian league and had no problems adjusting to the German Pro A. How would you compare the two leagues and which one was higher in talent and competition?
I enjoyed both leagues, I think the Croatian league was more physical and not as many fouls are called and in the German league its more schemes, and different defenses that your playing against every week. The Croatian league had more veteran type of guys that played in the NBA, and the German league its younger talent that are looking to make a name for themselves.
With the Kirchheim Knights you averaged 12,8ppg, 4,5rpg and 5,3apg. How content were you with your season?
I’m not really satisfied with the season I had just because I know I could have averaged more points and assists. But I also realize that we ran most plays to throw the ball in the post.
Your outside shooting continues to be up and down. Two seasons ago you were at 39% in the NCAA, last season 25% in Croatia and this season 33%. Is your shooting a constant work in progress?
Yeah, I’m working on my shooting every summer, but a lot of the time I’m shooting 3s off the dribble so that’s kind of the reason my shooting has been up and down.
You had very many good games with the Kirchheim Knights. What was your personal best games? Possibly the two wins over PS Karlsruhe?
Both Karlsruhe games, both artland games and Schalke were some of my best games that I can think of, but I know I had some other good games.
Who was the toughest player that you battled this season in the Pro A?
Devonte Lacy was one of the best players in the Pro A, I think he was probably my favorite player to go against.
On what area’s of your game will you be focusing on most this summer in the lab as you continue to improve in your game?
Shooting and getting stronger will be my focus. If I want to keep progressing, I know I must get better in both aspects of game.
What is the next step for you? You had a solid season in Germany. Could you imagine playing another season in Germany or would you prepared to give a new culture and league a chance?
Yes, I would love to play another season in Germany, I have family in Germany and I’m looking to get my German passport. But I don’t mind traveling the world and seeing other countries.
Last season as a rookie you played with KK Alkar Sinj (Croatia-Premijer Liga) playing 24 games: Score-5 (15.5ppg), 4.5rpg, 4.7apg, Steals-2 (2.0spg), FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 25.6%, FT: 72.5%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
Just the different culture, not being able to speak English to anyone and just the way of living in Europe. Being away from home with no family or friends is tough but it makes you mentally stronger.
How important was it having American LJ Booth as your teammate as a rookie? Did his presence make the cold and long winter more bearable or were you able to make some long lasting relationships with your Croatian teammates?
LJ is my boy. But it was important for both of us, nobody else in the town spoke English so me and LJ went everywhere together. And my all my teammates were great. I still follow them on Instagram so I can see that they’re still doing good.
You held your own against some very good Croatian teams like Cedevita that had 3 ex NBA players with Murphy, Johnson and Ukic. When you saw veteran players like them play, how confident did it make you that you can also make your way up the basketball ladder in the next years with your talent and continued hard work?
At first I didn’t even think some of those guys were in the NBA and once I realized I could play with these guys I gained a lot of confidence and I know if I keep working I can play in some of the top leagues In Europe and make big money.
You began your NCAA career at Florida Gulf Coast (NCAA): in 2012 and played two seasons there playing 71 games. What kind of experience was that for you and why did you leave after two seasons?
It was a roller coaster experience. My first months of college I hated it and I wanted to leave but once I found myself as a person and on the basketball court things became easier for me and I’m glad I went through those experiences.
At Florida Gulf Coast (NCAA) you had many teammates that would playing Europe and Germany. What memories do you have of German Alex Blessig who is on the way of helping lead his team Leverkusen to the Pro A? Do you keep tabs on your ex teammates?
Yeah we were trying to get Alex to come play for the Knights this year and he is a great person , he deserves the success that he is receiving.
What memories do you have of the NCAA Sweet 16 run in 2013 and losing to Florida? You played 9 minutes and against current Euroleague player Scottie Wilbekin.
I just remember everyone showing us love once we started winning and because we were the underdogs. But Scottie was an elite player, we couldn’t stop him, and I see why he is in the euro league now.
You then transferred to North Carolina Central (NCAA) and made a big jump in your stats from your junior to senior year. How do you feel did your game develop in those two years?
My first two years I was coming off the bench, and I didn’t have a big role of the team, so once I transferred so that I could start at point guard for at least two years. Coach Levelle Moton just believed in me which had a lot to do with my success. He put me in situations to use my strengths, and it shows in the increase in my stats.
As a senior you played 33 games averaging 14.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 5.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 39.5%, FT: 77.9%. You had some great memories there, but w was winning the MEAC tournament the best moment?
Going into my senior year I wanted the younger guys to experience the NCAA tournament, so being able to lead my team to the tournament was my best moment. I think everybody should have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
How did head coach Levelle Moton groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
I think he more so groomed me as a man, and just taught me things about life and taking those tips and advice it just translated to the basketball court.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Rashaun Madison?
Hahaha Rashaun couldn’t beat me. But that’s my guy, he grew up so much from the time he got to NCCU until the time he graduated.
Who is the toughest guy that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
Mason Plummlee. He is a 6’10 big man that can jump out the gym lol, he by far was one of the most dominating players I played against.
If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?
Nimrod Hillard, Benard Thompson, Sherwood Brown, Jordan Parks, Chase Fieler
If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Pete Maravich
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?
Its tough to say because they both played in two different eras, but I feel like Jordan dominated the game more and he has 6 championship rings.
What was the last movie that you saw?
‘US’ it’s a Jordan Peele movie
Thanks Dajuan for the chat.